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Geology and Mineral Deposits of the Skeena Arch, West-Central British

Columbia: A Geoscience BC Digital Data Compilation Project1


By Don MacIntyre2

KEYWORDS: digital data, GIS, Skeena arch, mineral de- base, using Manifold 6.5 GIS software, for use by
posits, geology explorationists; various data formats will be pro-
duced in order to make the data as widely useable as
INTRODUCTION possible; data will be made available on CD and
possibly over the Internet in standard GIS format;
The Skeena arch is a northeast-trending belt of uplifted and
Jurassic and older rocks that transects central British Co- spatial analysis of the data and definition of explora-
lumbia. This uplift is believed to have formed in the Middle tion targets based on correlation of positive indica-
Jurassic and resulted in separation of the Bowser and tors, such as geochemical and geophysical anoma-
Nechako basins (Yorath, 1991). Rocks exposed along the
Skeena arch represent a long-lived magmatic arc that has lies and stratigraphic setting.
produced a diverse range of mineral deposits in a wide vari- The project will generate the following deliverables
ety of geological settings. This area represents some of the over a two year period:
most richly endowed terrain in BC and has been the site of Updated and standardized 1:100 000-scale geologi-
mineral exploration for the past 125 years. Since 1985, the cal, geochemical and geophysical compilation maps
BC Geological Survey and the Geological Survey of Can-
ada have been involved in regional mapping projects along for the maps sheets covered by the project area
the Skeena arch, first as part of the Whitesail and Smithers (Fig. 1)
projects (e.g., MacIntyre et al., 1989) and more recently as A CD containing reports documenting the results of
part of the Interior Plateau (Diakow et al., 1997) and the project and new exploration targets, plus a com-
Nechako NATMAP (MacIntyre et al., 1996a, 1996b, 1997, plete suite of data files and maps in GIS format for
1998; Mac In tyre 1998, 2001a, b; Mac In tyre and use in Manifold 6.5 GIS and other popular GIS
Villeneuve, 2001) projects. This work has resulted in a packages (ArcView, MapInfo, AutoCAD Map,
much better understanding of the geological evolution of etc.); the CD will also contain 1:100 000-scale digi-
the arch, particularly during the metallogenically important
Jurassic through Cretaceous time periods. Although there tal maps in PDF format portraying the geology, min-
are gaps in the map coverage, a large part of the project area eral occurrences, geochemistry and geophysics of
(80%) has now been mapped in detail. These data were the project area, and assessed exploration potential
originally compiled at 1:100 000 scale as part of the Min- for key mineral deposit types
eral Potential Project (MacIntyre et al., 1994) and revised Up dated MINFILE (2005) oc cur rences, as re-
and updated as part of the Digital Geology of BC Project quired.
(Massey et al., 2003, 2003a). The Skeena arch Project will
provide a means of bringing this and other digital datasets Projected release of final report, maps and database
together as a series of standardized, digital geological maps files is October 2006.
with linked databases for structure, mineral occurrences,
geochemistry, geophysics, geochronology and paleontol- LOCATION OF THE PROJECT AREA
ogy. A new series of 1:100 000-scale maps will be produced
for the area and made available in digital and hardcopy for- The area covered by the Skeena Arch Project is shown
mat. in Figure 1. The area includes all of the Hazelton (93M),
The aim and scope of this proposed two-year project is Smithers (93L) and Whitesail (93E) maps sheets, and the
to promote new exploration along the Skeena arch by: south half of the McConnell Creek (94D), east half of the
compiling all existing data relevant to mineral ex- Terrace (103I) and southeast corner of the Nass River
ploration along the arch and building a GIS data- (103P) map sheets.

1
KEY DATASETS AND PRODUCTS
Geoscience BC contribution GBC007
2
Consulting Geologist, D.G. MacIntyre & Associates Ltd., New geology and exploration-potential maps will be
Victoria, BC compiled and released as digital products for each of the
This publication is also available, free of charge, as colour
map tiles shown in Figure 1. The digital files will include
digital files in Adobe Acrobat PDF format from the BC Ministry bedrock geology and exploration potential for specific
of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources internet website at mineral-deposit types, such as epithermal veins, Eskay
http://www.em.gov.bc.ca/Mining/Geolsurv/Publications/catalog/ Creek type VMS, porphyry Cu and Mo, etc. Potential for
catfldwk.htm hydrocarbons may also be included if sufficient data can be

Geological Fieldwork 2005, Paper 2006-1 303


Figure 1. Skeena Arch Project area, showing map tiles to be compiled and location of MINFILE occurrences.

obtained. Digital compilation products will be derived ever, digital elevation data are available for free from the
from the datasets shown in Table 1. A key criterion for the Government of Canada GEOBASE website, and these will
project is that all datasets used to produce the derivative ge- be used to generate contour maps and hillshade surfaces for
ology and exploration-potential maps and databases are the project area using the capabilities of the Manifold 6.5
available to the public for free. Unfortunately, this means GIS software. Manifold was chosen as the GIS platform for
that TRIM topographic data cannot be used in this project this project because of its exceptional functionality and low
because of its high cost and distribution restrictions. How- cost (currently selling for around $300 Canadian). In addi-

304 British Columbia Geological Survey


TABLE 1. KEY DATASETS TO BE USED IN THE SKEENA ARCH COMPILATION PROJECT

Name Description Source


Geology Bedrock geology polygons, faults and related databases BCGS
Quaternary Quaternary cover polygons BCGS
Age Dates Isotopic ages BCGS
Minfile Mineral occcurrence locations and related databases BCGS
ARIS Assessment report locations and descriptions BCGS
RGS Regional silt, water and till geochemistry sample locations and related databases BCGS
Minpot Mineral potential tracts, location of known resources and related databases BCGS
Geophysics Airborne geophysical surveys GSC
DEM Digital elevation model points (used to generate contours and hillshade relief maps) GEOBASE

Rivers Major rivers as lines and polygons GEOGRATIS


Lakes Major lake polygons GEOGRATIS
Sea Ocean polygons GEOGRATIS
Roads Road network GEOGRATIS
FSR Logging road network BCMOF
Cities Cities, towns and communities GEOGRATIS
Ice Cover Areas of ice cover GEOGRATIS
Parks Location of parks BCMENV
Grid 250K NTS map sheet grids for 1:250K and 1:50K maps GEOGRATIS
Grid 20K Map sheet grid for BC 1:20K TRIM maps BCMENV

tion to the Manifold data format, however, all files will also Richards 1980, 1990). Most of these faults formed during
be made available in ESRI shapefile, MapInfo MIF and Late Cretaceous to Eocene or youn ger block-faulting
AutoDesk DWG format. All file formats will be available events (MacIntyre et al., 1997, 1998). In most parts of the
in three projections: geographic, Universal Transverse project area, rocks of the Stikine Terrane display broad
Mercator and BC Albers. These projections will be based open fold patterns. The occurrence of a penetrative cleav-
on the North American Datum 1983. age and metamorphic grade higher than lower greenschist
facies is rare.

TECTONIC SETTING
GEOLOGY
The project area is within the Intermontane Belt, which
at this latitude includes the volcanic-arc Stikine (Stikinia) The geology of the Skeena Arch Project area is based
Terrane and a small part of the oce anic Cache Creek on a recent compilation completed by the BC Geological
Terrane. The Stikine Terrane comprises Carboniferous to Survey (Massey et al., 2003a, b). This information has been
Middle Jurassic island-arc volcanic and sedimentary rocks used to generate Figures 25. Figure 6 is a schematic cross-
and related plutonic suites (Schiarizza and MacIntyre, section, extending from the Skeena arch to the Bowser ba-
1999). The Stikine Terrane is believed to have evolved in sin, that shows the relationships of major lithostratigraphic
the eastern Pacific of the northern hemisphere and moved map units. Also shown are the stratigraphic positions of
northward to dock with ancestral North America sometime geochronological and paleontological age controls.
during the Middle Jurassic (Monger et al., 1972, 1996). Most of the project area is underlain by the Stikine
The Stikine Terrane is well exposed along the Skeena arch. Terrane, which here includes the Carboniferous to Permian
North of the Skeena arch, the Stikine Terrane is overlain by Asitka Group island-arc metavolcanic rocks and limestone;
postaccretion Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous marine and Middle to Late Triassic augite-phyric basalt, andesite and
nonmarine sedimentary rocks of the Bowser Basin. The related island-arc marine sedimentary rocks of the Takla
southern part of the Skeena arch is overlapped by Late Cre- Group; and Early to Middle Jurassic andesitic volcanic,
taceous and Eocene continental volcanic arc and related volcaniclastic and related marine sedimentary rocks of the
sedimentary rocks of the Ootsa Lake and Endako groups. Hazelton Group island-arc to continental-arc assemblage
The project area spans the zone of westward-directed (Fig. 2; Thorkelson et al., 1995; Richards 1980, 1990). The
thrust faulting that marks the boundary between the Stikine stratified rocks are cut by the granodiorite and quartz
and Cache Creek terranes (Struik et al., 2001). This struc- diorite of the Late Triassic to Early Jurassic Topley intru-
tural imbrication occurred prior to 165 Ma (Schiarizza and sive suite and the newly recognized Early to Middle Juras-
Mac In tyre 1999), as in di cated by iso to pic ages for sic Spike Peak intrusive suite (MacIntyre et al., 2001),
postkinematic plutons that cut both terranes. Folds and which are prob a bly comagmatic with the Takla and
thrust faults related to this imbrication are offset by a com- Hazelton volcanic-arc successions.
plex pattern of high-angle faults. This pattern of faulting is In the northwest corner of the project area, the Stikine
not unique to the boundary between Stikine and Cache Terrane is overlain by marine to nonmarine clastic sedi-
Creek terranes, as it is observed throughout the Smithers mentary strata of the Late Jurassic Bowser Lake and Early
and Hazelton map sheets (Tipper and Richards 1976a, b; Cretaceous Skeena groups (Fig. 3). These rocks were de-

Geological Fieldwork 2005, Paper 2006-1 305


Figure 2. Distribution of Triassic and Jurassic volcanic and plutonic rocks of the Stikine Terrane.

306 British Columbia Geological Survey


Figure 3. Distribution of Jurassic and Cretaceous sedimentary rocks of the Bowser and Skeena basins.

Geological Fieldwork 2005, Paper 2006-1 307


Figure 4. Distribution of Cretaceous and Tertiary volcanic-arc rocks and location of MINFILE occurrences.

308 British Columbia Geological Survey


Figure 5. Distribution of Tertiary volcanic cover.

Geological Fieldwork 2005, Paper 2006-1 309


Overlap Assemblages Extension, block faulting Miocene
Endako 50 Sustut
P 50-53
L. Cret.- Newman Basin Eocene
Kasalka 50-53
Eocene 78 P Babine Sustut
Arc Folding, uplift
Bulkley
Rocky Ridge
U. Cretaceous
Skeena 107
L. Cretaceous
Skeena
Bowser Trout Crk.
F Arch
Ashman
Basin U. Jurassic
F
172-166
Smithers F 175
F
176 P M. Jurassic
Hazelton 184 F 178-176
Saddle Hill
Arc Spike
Nilkitkwa F Peak L. Jurassic
Telkwa 194
Folding, uplift 208
Takla Topley 219
Takla F
Arc F 218
Asitka
Triassic
Stikine Terrane Arc
F
Asitka Permian

U-Pb Ar-Ar F Fossil P Porphyry Cu

Figure 6. Schematic stratigraphic relationships, northern Skeena arch.

posited in a fluvial-deltaic to nearshore shelf environment MINERAL DEPOSITS


along the south east ern mar gin of the Bow ser Ba sin
(Bassett, 1991; Bassett and Kleinspehn, 1996; Evenchick, The Skeena Arch Project area is richly endowed with
1999). A detailed discussion of these overlap assemblages metallic mineral deposits, with over 800 occurrences listed
is presented in MacIntyre (1998). in the BC Geological Surveys MINFILE database. The dif-
ferent deposit types that have been recognized in the area
are listed in Table 2. Of these, the most important types are
In the western half of the project area, Late Cretaceous polymetallic veins (268), subvolcanic Cu-Ag-Au-(As-Sb)
to Early Eocene porphyritic andesite, basalt, rhyolite and (153), porphyry CuMoAu (140), volcanic redbed Cu
related pyroclastic and volcaniclastic continental-arc rocks (86), porphyry Mo (66), intrusion-related Au pyrrhotite
unconformably overlie both folded and uplifted rocks of
the Stikine Terrane and Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous
sedimentary rocks of the Bowser Basin (Fig. 4). The youn- TABLE 2. MINERAL DEPOSIT TYPES OCCURRING IN THE
ger volcanic rocks are preserved in grabens or as erosional SKEENA ARCH PROJECT AREA
remnants on ridge tops. The Late Cretaceous rocks include Profile
Name Count
porphyritic andesite flows and lahars of the Kasalka Group Code
and coeval granodiorite and quartz diorite plutons of the I05 Polymetallic veins Ag-Pb-ZnAu 268
Bulkley plutonic suite (MacIntyre, 1985; Carter, 1981). In L01 Subvolcanic Cu-Ag-Au-(As-Sb) 153
the vicinity of Babine Lake, the Stikine Terrane is uncon- L04 Porphyry CuMoAu 140
formably overlain by porphyritic andesite flows of the D03 Volcanic redbed Cu 86
L05 Porphyry Mo (low F- type) 66
Early Eocene Newman Formation and is cut by porphyritic I02 Intrusion-related Au pyrrhotite veins 38
granodiorite to quartz monzonite plutons of the Babine K01 Cu skarns 20
plutonic suite. In the southern part of the project area, small G06 Noranda-Kuroko massive sulphide Cu-Pb-Zn 7
porphyritic quartz monzonite and related felsic intrusions E04 Sediment-hosted Cu 6
constitute the Nanika plutonic suite. Important porphyry H05 Epithermal Au-Ag (low sulphidation) 6
copper deposits are associated with the Bulkley, Babine I01 Au-quartz veins 6
and Nanika intrusive rocks (Carter, 1976, 1981; Carter et M01 Flood basalt - associated Ni-Cu 4
al., 1995; MacIntyre and Villeneuve, 2001). H04 Epithermal Au-Ag-Cu (high sulphidation) 3
I06 CuAg quartz veins 3
I12 W veins 3
In the east and southeast parts of the project area, the K03 Fe skarns 3
K04 Au skarns 3
Stikine and Cache Creek terranes are unconformably over-
E14 Sedimentary exhalative Zn-Pb-Ag 2
lain by Early Eocene basalt and rhyolite flows and related G04 Besshi massive sulphide Cu-Zn 2
pyroclastic rocks of the Endako and Ootsa Lake Groups J01 Polymetallic manto Ag-Pb-Zn 2
(Fig. 5; Grainger and Anderson, 1999; Grainger et al., K02 Pb-Zn skarns 2
2001) and Miocene basalt flows of the Chilcotin Group. L02 Porphyry-related Au 2
These younger rocks have also been block faulted and tilted L03 Alkalic porphyry Cu-Au 2
during an Eocene or younger extensional tectonic event. 827

310 British Columbia Geological Survey


veins (38) and Cu skarns (20). Most of these deposits are re- Columbia; in Porphyry Deposits of the Northwestern Cor-
lated to the Late Cretaceous Bulkley and Eocene Babine dillera of North America, Schroeter, T.G., Editor, Canadian
and Nanika plutonic suites. These intrusions are part of a Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, Special Vol-
long-lived magmatic arc that forms the core of the Skeena ume 46, pages 247255.
arch. A schematic diagram showing the evolution of Creta- Diakow, L.J., Webster, I.C.L., Richards, T.A. and Tipper, H.W.
ceous and Tertiary volcanic centres is shown in Fig. 4. (1997): Geology of the Fawnie and Nechako Ranges, south-
Redbed Cu occurrences are mostly associated with basaltic ern Nechako Plateau, central British Columbia
flows of the Takla and Hazelton Groups. (93F/2,3,6,7); in Interior Plateau Geoscience Project: Sum-
mary of Geological, Geochemical and Geophysical Studies,
In recent years, potential for the discovery of Eskay Diakow, L.J. and Newell, J.M., Editors, BC Ministry of En-
Creek type volcanogenic massive sulphide deposits has ergy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Paper 1997-2 and
been recognized. The most prospective targets are Middle Geological Survey of Canada, Open File 3448, pages 730.
Jurassic submarine volcanic rocks of the Hazelton Group Evenchick, C.A. (1999): Depositional and structural histories of
(Massey, 1999; Massey et al., 1999) and mid-Cretaceous the northern two-thirds of the Bowser Basin/Skeena Fold
bimodal volcanic rocks of the Rocky Ridge Formation Belt, northern British Columbia: records of terrane interac-
(MacIntyre, 2001). tions; in Terrane Paths 99, Circum-Pacific Terrane Confer-
e n c e , A b s t r a c t s a n d P ro g r a m, E v e n c h i c k , C . A . ,
There is currently only one deposit in production in the Woodsworth, G.J. and Jongens, R., Editors, Geological Sur-
project area: the Huckleberry porphyry Cu-Mo deposit at vey of Canada Geological Association of Canada, pages
Tahtsa Lake, 90 km south of the town of Houston. Two 3032.
other deposits are in the advanced stages of feasibility stud- Grainger, N.C. and Anderson, R.G. (1999): Geology of the Eocene
ies: the Davidson (a.k.a. Glacier Gulch or Yorke-Hardy) Ootsa Lake Group in northern Nechako River and southern
porphyry Mo deposit at Smithers and the Morrison por- Fort Fraser map area, central British Columbia; in Current
phyry Cu deposit at Babine Lake. Research 1999-A, Geological Survey of Canada, pages
139148.
Grainger, N.C., Villeneuve, M.E., Heaman, L.M. and Anderson,
CONCLUSIONS R.G. (2001): New U-Pb and Ar/Ar isotopic age constraints
on the tim ing of Eocene magmatism, Fort Fra ser and
This project will help to stimulate mineral exploration Nechako River Map areas, central British Columbia; Cana-
by providing mineral explorationists with a comprehen- dian Journal of Earth Sciences, volume 38, pages 679696.
sive, up-to-date, all-inclusive GIS-compatible compilation
MacIntyre, D.G. (1985): Geology and mineral deposits of the
of existing geoscience data in one of the most prospective Tahtsa Lake district, west-central British Columbia; BC
areas of BC. The current database for this area is a mixture Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Bulle-
of digital and nondigital data from a wide range of projects tin 75.
that were done at different times and scales by different
MacIntyre, D.G. (1998): Babine Porphyry District Project: bed-
government agencies and exploration companies. The data rock geology of the Nakinilerak Lake map sheet (93M/8),
from these projects need to be compiled, integrated and British Columbia; in Geological Fieldwork 1997, BC Minis-
standardized into a format that can be used in a GIS. Build- try of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Paper 1998-
ing such a database will help explorationists identify new 1, pages 2-12-18.
exploration targets and re-evaluate areas of known mineral MacIntyre, D.G. (2001a): Geological compilation of the Babine
occurrences using new geological and metallogenic mod- porphyry copper district; BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and
els. Particular focus will be directed toward porphyry Mo Petroleum Resources, Open File Map 2001-3.
and Eskay Creek type deposits. In addition to providing a
comprehensive standardized database, this project will also MacIntyre, D.G. (2001b): The Mid-Cretaceous Rocky Ridge For-
mation a new target for subaqueous hot-spring deposits
analyze the data and generate a list of potential target areas (Eskay Creek type) in central British Columbia; in Geo-
for consideration, thus assisting the exploration commu- logical Fieldwork 2000, BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and
nity in their evaluation of the potential for new discoveries. Petroleum Resources, Paper 2001-1, pages 253268.
MacIntyre, D.G., Ash C. and Britton, J. (1994): Nass-Skeena
(93/E, L, M; 94/D; 103/G, H, I, J, P; 104/A, B), BC Ministry
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312 British Columbia Geological Survey